Fr James Good’s loss like ‘burning down of a library’

Professor of Theology donated his body to science

Fr James Good lived in Cork after his retirement. He  was suspended from carrying out his priestly faculties almost 50 years ago for publicly opposing Humanae Vitae. Photograph:   Michael Mac Sweeney

Fr James Good lived in Cork after his retirement. He was suspended from carrying out his priestly faculties almost 50 years ago for publicly opposing Humanae Vitae. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney


Theologian, Fr James (Jim) Good, who spoke out against a papal encyclical opposing artificial contraception in the late 1960’s, was a “gem” of a person whose loss earlier this week was comparable to the “burning down of a library”, his requiem mass, at St Columba’s Church in Douglas, Cork, heard on Thursday.

Fr Good was a professor of Theology at UCC when he opposed Humanae Vitae. He was suspended by then Bishop of Cork and Ross Dr Cornelius Lucey from preaching and hearing confessions. However, the two men spent two years working alongside each other later in life as missionaries in Africa.

The former SMA Bishop of Lodwar in Kenya, Bishop Patrick Harrington, told mourners Fr Good wrote to him a few years ago to say his work as a missionary in Africa had tempted the “indomitable Bishop Cornelius Lucey to join me in the desert”.

The pair had a good relationship when they served alongside each other as missionaries in Kenya following Bishop Lucey’s retirement at the age of 78. Bishop Lucey was far advanced in leukaemia when he travelled to Africa to work as a curate.

Bishop Harrington said Fr Good sent him a letter “for his archive” in 2015. In his own words, Fr Good said he never had a cross word with Bishop Lucey in the two years they served alongside each other. However, he joked there was one exception.

“We never had a problem while we were together except when I had to avoid the word “connie dodgers” when referring to a large biscuit.”


Fr Good was referring to the large biscuits that Cork bakers had made so those on the Lenten fast could stave off the pangs of hunger while staying within the letter of the law. The biscuits were called ‘Connie dodgers’ after Bishop Lucey. Fasters were allowed a biscuit or two in the morning during fast and the big biscuit was a way of harmlessly breaking the rules.

Bishop Harrington said during his many years in Ludwar in Kenya, Fr Good was in his own words a “jack of all trades”. Fr Good recalled in his letter to the Bishop that he had lived a rich life and that when the angel blew his final trumpet he would have “many helping hands to slip (him) in to the heavenly mansion”.

“Even if it has to be by the back door or the tradesman’s entrance it will be good to meet them all again.”

Bishop Harrington said Fr Good had carried out “tireless” work in Africa. He stated the priest had proclaimed his love for the people of Africa in practical action, prose and verse.

“The people are grateful to you. Some have already sent messages of condolence.”

The Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr John Buckley, said Fr Good had performed a “great service to Christ and his church” and he suffered “hardship” and “separation” from loved ones during his time in Africa.

In his homily, Monsignor Kevin O’Callaghan said Fr Good was the oldest priest in the diocese having reached the age of 94. He spent his final days being ably assisted by the youngest priest in the diocese, Fr Ben Hodnett. He said he could die happy having received such care.

Generous heart

He told mourners Fr Good had a generous loving heart and was “loved and cherished wherever he went”. He emphasised that Fr James was born to serve and not be served.

It is understood Fr Good inquired as to the possibility of being given a post in Africa when he was in the seminary but had to wait many years until his dream came true.

The priest died in the early hours of Wednesday at Cork University Hospital. He was ordained on June 20th, 1948. He would have been 70 years ordained in three months time.

After ordination, he went to study theology in Austria and completed his Doctorate there. After returning in 1955, he lectured at UCC in the Education department and in Medical Ethics. In 1979, he moved to Limerick as part of that role in relation to the teaching programme at Mary Immaculate College. He spent 27 years as a missionary in Kenya and received an honorary doctorate from UCC.

Laterally, since retiring and returning to Cork, he assisted in Douglas and celebrated Mass at weekends in two nursing homes.

Fr Good donated his body to medical science. He is survived by his extended family. The mass was celebrated by Monsignor Kevin O’Callaghan who was joined on the altar by Bishop Buckley, Bishop Harrington, Fr Pat O’Mahony and Canon Teddy O’Sullivan.